British accent perceptions and attributions of guilt by native and non-native speakers
Keywords:accent, guilt, language attitudes, forensic linguistics
This paper uses the matched-guise technique to analyse the impact of accent perception in the context of suspect interrogation. Three native speakers of British English and one of Norwegian recorded a suspect’s statement in a version as close as possible to standard English as well as in their strongest accented pronunciation of English. These recordings were rated by native speakers of English (NSs) and German learners of English (non-native speakers, NNSs) regarding competence, social attractiveness, credibility/guilt and standardness. Qualitative and quantitative analysis of these ratings shows evidence for accented speakers being rated less competent, but more socially attractive and more likely to be guilty than their standard counterparts. Moreover, NNSs’ ratings were significantly higher for competence and guilt in the standard guises, as well as social attractiveness and guilt in the accent guises, while NSs twice as often reported pronunciation/accent having influenced their ratings. This study also found that specific regional stereotypes were less important compared to the perceived degree of standardness.
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